Bringing Street Theater for Change to Nepal
The scene: the eastern plains regions of Nepal, August 2019. The players: two nonprofits with a goal of creating lasting social change. The medium: street theater!
Since 2016, Population Media Center (PMC), a global NGO creating social impact driven by entertainment, has been a hit on Nepalese airwaves. Shows like Hilkor and Mai Sari Sunakhari have engaged audiences nationwide in dramatic plots while promoting positive behavior change around deep-seated issues like child marriage and domestic violence. A local community organization saw the opportunity to expand those results to new heights for rural Nepalese populations.
Established in 1993, Janaki Women Awareness Society (JWAS) is a women-led NGO seeking to empower and improve the lives of marginalized populations across Nepal, including women, Dalits (members of Nepal’s lowest caste), youths, tribes, people with disabilities, and people affected by disasters and conflicts. Their website’s vision statement affirms JWAS’ desire “to change our society through sustainable community development based on social, economic, political and gender equality”.
With considerable experience creating street-theater performances for Maithili-speaking regions of Nepal (Maithili is the second most common Nepalese language), JWAS sought partnership with PMC in 2018, pursuing a goal of increased impact in the fight to improve girls’ education rates and reduce the number of child marriages. Child marriage and girls’ access to education are two challenges JWAS has been dedicated to addressing across the nation.
The partnership has led to the development of street drama design workshops for Musahar(a community among the Dalit) and Maithili girls. Beginning in August, sixty girls from twelve communities across JWAS’ operational district will attend a 5-day workshop combining PMC’s methodology with JWAS’ expertise in street drama. Sorted into teams by community, each of the twelve teams will design six dramas to perform in their community across a six-month period beginning in March of 2020. The partnership will also air Hilkor at life skills sessions for adolescent girls who have dropped out of schools from 80 communities across Nepal’s Province 2. The goal will be to motivate positive behaviors and normative change regarding child marriage, girls’ education, and gender-based violence.
As PMC seeks to use innovative methods of storytelling while engaging widespread audiences and creating normative change, JWAS’ partnership is cause for celebration. And as the positive impact for girls across Eastern Nepal is envisioned, we are on our feet shouting “bravo!”